Tuesday, July 22, 2008

juggling judging 3

Well, I have completed the task and will hand over the poetry tomorrow. The judging is blind and I don't know who has won the open and regional awards, or who the poets are who will receive the highly commended and commended citations but I do know their poems, having spent some time reading the work. I really like the majority of the ones that got lucky this time and have a good deal of healthy respect for all of the poems (and their soon to be announced poet creators).

Judging is so subjective. I was being objective about the task, but at the end of the day what I did was select the work which I found most worthy. Another judge/s may well have selected in a different order and possibly included some that I did not and I'm guessing that even with another judge/s some of the poems would be as I selected.

One of the things I notice when I judge poetry (no expert, but I have participated as a judge on this award for a few years now and last year I read and edited the many contributions for foam:e issue #5) is the way fresh work jumps right out, even from a pile of two hundred or more poems. A fresh poem is a treasure. It's such a reward when it's first read. It becomes impossible to forget and as a result, becomes one for the short list almost immediately.

I don't know about other judges or other more salubrious comps (what they find or what they do), but in this one (so far as I can comment from my own experience of reading the entries) not enough poems come in that are competent in form, voice, experiment, content, ideas, artistry (or any number of other aspects of the best literature) as well as being challenging and aware of the moment 'now' we are in. I image that those poems are only written (here I'm taking an educated guess) by a poet who reads widely, navigates their art risking something, striving for something more than a well-crafted or merely competent style.

I call this rare poetry 'fresh' because it shouldn't be so hard to find in the entries sent to a competition, but it always is. And that's why when it's read, it's such a big surprise, it's always going to impress a reader. I scratch my head and wonder why so many poets insist on doing the safe tired 'same ole'. I'm not suggesting everyone goes and gets all post-avant or langpo or hyperlyric or non-creative or flarf-like or anything whatever else (not that I would mind if they did for the most part) - but I wish that some of the people writing poetry would stop writing it. I wish that they would just give it up and consider a long course in reading it instead.

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